‘Queen of Suspense’ Mary Higgins Clark Passes Away at 92

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COURTESY OF ALVIN TRUSTY VIA FLICKR

Clark established a series of author talks at Fordham in her name, which she attended to advise students on writing.

By JILL RICE, Copy Editor

Prolific author Mary Higgins Clark, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’79, passed away on Jan. 31 in Naples, Florida, at the age of 92. She authored dozens of bestselling suspense novels over a 45-year career with the publisher Simon & Schuster. 

Her publisher announced the news via the author’s website, stating that the “Queen of Suspense” died from “complications due to old age.” 

Clark wrote 46 and co-wrote another 10 best-selling novels, a number of which were adapted for television or film, including “Where Are the Children?” and “A Stranger Is Watching.” Many of her works centered around strong women who succeeded against the odds, a parallel to her own life. She was not published until after she was a widow with five children at age 48, after which all of her books became top sellers. 

Her career at Fordham began around the same time. While a student at Lincoln Center, she acquired her first book deal, a million-dollar contract, and also reached the New York Times bestseller list. 

Always wanting to connect with her readers and fellow authors, Clark went on tour for her books “until very recently … even though she long ago could have pulled back from that part of being an author,” according to Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, who wrote the announcement on the website. “She was, too, a generous member of the literary community, especially toward new authors, and was well known beyond the publishing world for her support of innumerable philanthropic and civic causes.”

One such philanthropic cause was Fordham’s English department, as she endowed the Mary Higgins Clark Chair in 2016 to provide opportunities for students to meet authors and donate to Fordham. The Mary Higgins Clark Chair provides for one genre author each year to visit the school, read from one of their works, give an address, teach writing workshops and advise students one-on-one. Clark’s generosity allowed Fordham’s English and creative writing students to hear about the craft of writing from multiple bestselling authors worldwide. Clark attended each of the talks held in her namesake, signing books and giving advice to students on writing. 

Mary Bly, chair of the English department, wrote, “She was a great writer, who entertained and terrified millions of readers around the world. And she was truly a good friend to Fordham.”

Clark also spoke to Bly’s Publishing: Theory and Practice course in 2014. Her experience as a long-standing name in the world of suspense novels was vital to students hoping to be published. 

“In the end of Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White says that it ‘is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both,’” Bly wrote. “And so was Mary Higgins Clark.” 

Clark was on the university’s Board of Trustees from 1990 to 1996 and earned an honorary doctorate from Fordham in 1998. 

Creative writing concentrator Daejah Woolery, FCLC ’22, recognized Clark’s importance to English and creative writing students. “Her influence is so ever-present in the school and in creative writing that I feel completely shocked by this,” she said, referencing Clark’s passing. 

Her presence will be greatly missed by the Fordham community, since she was still active at Fordham even in recent years. Bly remarked, “The bequests she gave us, allowing innovative programming as well as need-based scholarships for creative writers, will continue to make a world of difference to Fordham’s undergraduates for years and years to come.”